Know how to handle a know-it-all

If you’ve ever had to deal with a know-it-all, you’re aware of the challenges when interacting with these individuals. Often people ex­­hibit this behavior for one of two reasons: (1) They have had experiences, likely during their formative years, which led them to believe they had to be right to be worthy. (2) They have little, if any, emotional intelligence and most likely suffer from some form of personality disorder—for example, narcissism.

In a professional setting, know-it-alls can undermine office morale, along with your credibility. That’s why you need to deal with them effectively. If the person repeatedly questions and “corrects” your information in a group setting—for in­­stance, a staff meeting—you can address it immediately by simply reiterating your information: “That’s interesting. As I mentioned, the sav­­ings from switching to this new sup­­plier are numbers that came directly from accounting.” Having the facts and research to back up the information you’re sharing will defuse much of the know-it-all’s impact.

If the person speaks up and challenges you right after you’ve said the above, you can respond: “Perhaps your comments are better addressed to accounting directly.” If the know-it-all keeps going, say, “I can see you’re passionate about this, and I’m going to ask that rather than disagree with my research, you allow me to share the information that accounting has deemed accurate.”

You could also ask the person pointed questions, such as, “Why do you believe that to be true? Where did you get those numbers?” You don’t want the discussion to devolve, so it’s crucial you maintain your composure. Take a deep breath. Remember, tone of voice is important. You want to convey that you care about the other person’s feelings, and your facial expressions should reflect that as well. Yet you don’t want to be bullied or belittled, so don’t be afraid to stand up to the know-it-all. Likely, everyone on your team has had to deal with this person’s know-it-all demeanor and will appreciate and respect your stance.